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Sometimes there is a distortion in how maternity leave is reported and delimitated from other types of leave, especially in jurisdictions where there is no clear legal term of "maternity leave", and such term is used informally to denote either the minimum or the maximum period of parental leave reserved by quota to the mother.
As such, Sweden is often quoted as having an exceptionally long leave, although there are several countries with significantly longer leave, when maternity leave and other leaves are added, where a parent may take leave until a child is 3 years of age.
It does not appear that parental leave policies have had a significant effect on the gender wage gap, which has remained relatively steady since the late 1980s, despite increasing adoption of parental leave policies. S., while the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 allows for unpaid parental leave, parents often do not utilize this eligibility to its fullest extent as it is unaffordable.
As a result, some studies show that the FMLA has had a limited impact on how much leave new parents take.
In the European Union, each country has its own policies, which vary significantly, but all the EU members must abide by the minimum standards of the Pregnant Workers Directive and Parental Leave Directive.
Criticism is often less concerned about the idea of paternity leave itself, but condemns the fact that father's quota policies do not allow that time to be allocated to the mother instead.
Critics argue that the quota harms mothers, depriving them of much needed leave, trivializes biological realities, and is an example of discrimination against mothers. Comparison between countries in term of employee benefits to leave for parents are often attempted, but these are very difficult to make, because of the complexity of types of leave available and because terms such as maternity leave, paternity leave, pre-natal leave, post-natal leave, parental leave, family leave and home-care leave, have different meanings in different jurisdictions. Comparing the length of maternity leave (which is common in international rankings) may say very little about the situation of a family in a specific country.
Jeremiah Carter and Martha Nussbaum have developed a political model known as the capabilities approach, where basic freedoms and opportunities are included in economic assessments of a country's well-being, in addition to GDP.
Nussbaum proposed 11 central capabilities as the minimum requirement for a decent society.The three most common models of funding are social insurance/social security (where employees, employers, or taxpayers in general contribute to a specific public fund), employer liability (where the employer must pay the employee for the length of leave), and mixed policies that combine both social security and employer liability.